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Convair F-106
Delta Dart "1956"

The Convair F-106 Delta Dart was the primary all-weather interceptor aircraft of the United States Air Force from the 1960s through to the 1980s. Designed as the so-called "Ultimate Interceptor", it proved to be the last dedicated interceptor in U.S. Air Force service to date. It was gradually retired during the 1980s, with the QF-106 drone conversions of the aircraft being used until 1998 under the Pacer Six program.

Convair F-106 Delta Dart "1956"

Role Fighter interceptor
Manufacturer Convair
First flight 26 December 1956
Introduction June 1959
Retired August 1988 (ANG); 1998 (NASA)
Primary users United States Air Force . Air National Guard
Number built 342 (2 prototypes, 277 F-106A, 63 F-106B)
Developed from Convair F-102 Delta Dagger

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Convair
F-106 Delta Dart "1956"

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Convair
F-106 Delta Dart "1956"

The F-106 was the ultimate development of the USAF’s 1954 interceptor program of the early 1950s. The initial winner of this competition had been the F-102 Delta Dagger, but early versions of this aircraft had demonstrated extremely poor performance, limited to subsonic speeds and relatively low altitudes. During the testing program the F-102 underwent numerous changes to improve its performance, notably the application of the area rule to the fuselage shaping and a change of engine, and the dropping of the advanced MX-1179 fire control system and its replacement with a slightly upgraded version of the MX-1 already in use on subsonic designs. The resulting aircraft became the F-102A, and in spite of being considered barely suitable for its mission, the Air Force sent out a production contract in March 1954, with the first deliveries expected in the following year

Operational History

The F-106 served in the contiguous US, Alaska, and Iceland, as well as for brief periods in Germany and South Korea. The F-106 was the second highest sequentially numbered P/F- aircraft to enter service under the old number sequence (the F-111 was highest), before the system was reset under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system. In service, the F-106’s official name, “Delta Dart,” was rarely used, and the aircraft was universally known simply as “The Six.”[23]

Although contemplated for use in the Vietnam War the F-106 never saw combat, nor was it exported to foreign users. Following the resolution of initial teething problems – in particular an ejection seat that killed the first 12 pilots to eject from the aircraft [24] – its exceptional performance made it very popular with its pilots. After the cancellation of their own Avro Arrow, the Canadian government briefly considered purchasing the F-106C/D.

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Convair F-106 Delta Dart (1956)

On 2 February 1970, an F-106 of the 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, piloted by Captain Gary Foust, entered a flat spin over Montana. Foust followed procedures and ejected from the aircraft. The resulting change of balance caused the aircraft to stabilize and later land “wheels up” in a snow-covered field, suffering only minor damage. The aircraft, promptly nicknamed “The Cornfield Bomber”, was then sent back to base by rail, repaired and returned to service, and is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.[4

Specifications

    • Crew: 1
    • Length: 70 ft 8 in (21.55 m)
    • Wingspan: 38 ft 3 in (11.67 m)
    • Height: 20 ft 3 in (6.18 m)
    • Empty weight: 24,420 lb (11,077 kg)
    • Gross weight: 34,510 lb (15,653 kg)
    • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney J75-P-17 afterburning turbojet engine, 16,100 lbf (72 kN) thrust dry, 24,500 lbf (109 kN) 
  • Maximum speed: 1,325 kn (1,525 mph, 2,454 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,192 m)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.3
  • Combat range: 500 nmi (580 mi, 930 km) with internal fuel [78]
  • Ferry range: 2,346 nmi (2,700 mi, 4,345 km) with external tanks at 530 kn (610 mph; 982 km/h) at 41,000 ft (12,497 m)[78]
  • Service ceiling: 57,000 ft (17,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 29,000 ft/min (150 m/s)
  • Time to altitude: 52,000 ft (15,850 m) in 6 minutes 54 seconds

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Between 1 June 1983 and 1 August 1988 the Delta Darts were incrementally retired and sent to the Military Storage and Disposition Center in Arizona.[29][30] When the need for a high performance Full Scaled Aerial Target Drone was required the USAF began withdrawing Delta Darts from storage. Starting in 1986, 194 of the surviving surplus aircraft were converted into target drones and these were designated QF-106As and used for target practice vehicles under the Pacer Six Program by the Aerial Targets Squadron

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